Sports

Manchester United fans invade stadium, protest Glazer ownership over Super League support

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Hundreds of Manchester United fans invaded the pitch at Old Trafford Sunday to protest the soccer team’s owners following the disastrous attempt to form a European Super League two weeks ago.

The original 11:30 a.m. ET kickoff time was delayed, but the match was postponed following discussions between the Premier League and local authorities, according to a League statement. No new fixture date was announced at this time. 

Estimates say that thousands of fans had gathered outside the stadium in the hours leading up to a match between United and their longtime rivals Liverpool FC. A group of fans broke away and broke into the stadium.

Once inside the stadium, fans took pictures and documented their invasion. One fan was seen taking a corner flag, while another young fan was seen climbing the goalposts and lying across the top of the net.

The fans have demanded that the Glazers, the American family that owns Manchester United FC as well as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, should sell the English soccer team after their involvement in the failed bid to create the Super League. 

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The protest was well announced, with police and authorities aware in the week leading up to the match that the protests would take place, though it was not clear how big the protest would be or what action the protesters would take, Sky News reported.

Fans held banners that made clear their displeasure, bearing phrases such as “our club not yours,” “you can buy our team but you can’t buy our heart and soul” and “apology not accepted” – the latter referring to Joel Glazer’s statement made after United withdrew from the Super League.

The United team bus was also prevented from departing from their hotel to reach the stadium ahead of kickoff.

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Police and stadium stewards tried to keep things calm and shepherd the fans outside the stadium, but the stewards were not trained for this kind of interaction, according to Rebecca Lowe of NBC Sports.

Pundits denounced the protest, saying that it drew focus from the nature of the protests and instead focused on what is most certainly criminal action by a number of fans. Robbie Mustow, a retired player and pundit for NBC Sports, called the display “disgraceful” and referred to the protesters as “thugs.”  

The Super League was the work of twelve team owners, including six from the Barclay’s Premier League in England, three teams from the Serie A in Italy and three teams from La Liga in Spain. The Glazer family has been touted as one of the masterminds to push for the league, with Joel Glazer given a role as Vice Chairman of the fledgling league. 

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The league would have maintained a fixed 15 teams that would have seen the already staggering divide in financial power that plagues the European game grow even wider.

Reaction from fans and even teams to the proposed Super League was immediate and furious, leading the English teams to withdraw just 48 hours after the initial announcement – and just one day after Real Madrid President Florentino Perez crowed victory in an endeavor he pursued for over ten years.

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The Glazer family bought United in 2005 for a sum of $1.1 billion. The team is now publicly listed, but the Glazers retain majority ownership.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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